Ramadan begins this week, and local food blogger Auria Abraham of Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen has simple and complex recipes for breaking the fast each evening.
Auria isn’t Muslim, but grew up with friends from almost every religious background.
“We celebrated Eid ul-Fitr, or Aidil Fitri as it is known in Malaysia, with our Muslim friends, ” she says. “We celebrated the Chinese New Year with our Chinese friends. We celebrated Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, with our Hindu friends. Come Christmas, our friends were all invited to come celebrate with us in our homes.”
They celebrated with food, and lots of it. Hosts prepared special holiday treats then opened their homes to friends and family. Under her mother’s strict and exact tutorials, Auria became an expert in cooking traditional dishes for every holiday, even ones she didn’t specifically observe.
One difficulty for observant Muslims is preparing a delicious meal for the evening breaking of the fast. In Malaysia, Auria reminisces, “Ramadan bazaars pop up in every town and village where folks can purchase beautiful, freshly made, ready-to eat dinners and treats.”
Kuih Seri Kaya
Kuih Seri Kaya is a very popular steamed kuih. It has no added fat beside what’s in the coconut milk. The bottom layer is made of glutinous rice and the top green layer is a rich coconut egg jam.
3 cups of glutinous rice, washed and soaked overnight with 1/4 tsp of salt added
1 cup of coconut milk
Pinch of salt
1 pandan (screwpine) leaf, tied in a knot
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 pandan (screwpine) leaves, cut into squares and pounded in a mortar and pestle with a teaspoon of water, then squeezed for the green essence of pandan
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups coconut milk
Green food coloring (optional)
1/4 tsp vanilla
Drain the soaked glutinous rice. In a wok with a steaming tray (or a large pot with steamer insert), boil water for steaming the rice. Place an 8″ or 10″ round cake pan in the steamer and let it heat up. Once hot, add the rice, coconut milk, pinch of salt, and knotted pandan leaf. Cover and steam for 20 minutes. Uncover and stir well. Cover again and steam for another 10 minutes. Uncover, remove the pandan leaf, press down with a wooden spoon to level the almost cooked rice so it’s as flat as you can get it. Cover and steam for five more minutes.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the seri kaya mixture. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Add the essence of pandan, flour, coconut milk, food coloring, and vanilla and mix until well combined. Pour this mixture through a fine sieve to remove any lumps. You definitely do not want lumpy seri kaya.
After the 35 minutes of steaming time for the glutinous rice, uncover your steamer and using a fork poke holes all over the cooked rice. This helps the seri kaya mixture to settle into the rice and stick to it instead of just sliding off. (Auria’s note: Haha, that’s an amazing newbie mistake that I’ve made myself. So funny now, but I definitely wasn’t laughing the first time I made this delicious dessert.)
Pour the seri kaya mixture onto the rice, cover and steam for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir gently, then cover and steam for another 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the steamer, and let it cool completely. The top layer may still jiggle as you move it, but it will harden and set as it cools.
Now this is the hardest part–wait for it to cool COMPLETELY before cutting into squares. Serve and enjoy!